Government must be realistic about the pace of NHS recovery Health Foundation response to the government's mandate to NHS England and NHS Improvement

25 March 2021

Responding to the Government's 2021–22 mandate to NHS England and NHS Improvement, Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive of the Health Foundation, said:

'Today’s mandate and planning guidance has set out short-term priorities for recovering NHS services, but the scale of the long-term challenges facing the system must not be underestimated.

'The NHS went into the pandemic with rising waiting lists and a shortfall in funding and staff. COVID-19 added a huge backlog of unmet need, worsened inequalities in health and set back implementation of the NHS Long Term Plan. The priorities set out today recognise these challenges, but the government will need to be realistic about the pace at which progress can be made.

'The pandemic took a heavy toll on NHS workers with many experiencing intense pressure and stress. Commitments to support staff are welcome but will need to be backed up by sufficient resource to ensure that they are given time to recover as pressure mounts to make progress on waiting times. 

'The government is emphasising the potential of technology to transform services to help tackle the backlog. But rushing to embed these innovations without understanding more about their impact holds risks. Faster methods of robust evaluation will be needed with investment to do this.

'Making real progress towards these priorities will take years not months. The limiting factors will be staff shortages, inadequate funding, and ongoing failure to reform social care. Addressing these will be the key test for the government over this parliament.'

Media contact

Simon Perry
020 7257 2093

Further reading

Newsletter blog

Rescue to recovery: why we must keep looking ahead

25 March 2021
Newsletter blog

‘In the middle of a global pandemic it has sometimes felt strange to be thinking long term’,...

Press release

A budget for rescue but not recovery

3 March 2021
Press release

Universal credit uplift and furlough extension welcome but public services underpinning recovery...

You might also like...

Press release

MPs highlight major gaps in the government’s reform agenda for the NHS and social care

Press release

Health Foundation response to the report by the Health and Social Care Select Committee on the...


NHS Test and Trace performance tracker


Our analysis on the performance of NHS Test and Trace from 1 October 2020 to 5 May 2021.

Press release

Government needs to address long-standing underinvestment as NHS backlog grows

Press release

Health Foundation response to the publication of NHS England's monthly performance statistics.

Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101 copy

Get social

Despite government promising to 'fix the crisis in social care once and for all', no plan to reform the sector has…

Follow us on Twitter
Kjell-bubble-diagramArtboard 101

Work with us

We look for talented and passionate individuals as everyone at the Health Foundation has an important role to play.

View current vacancies
Artboard 101 copy 2

The Q community

Q is an initiative connecting people with improvement expertise across the UK.

Find out more